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The Works of John Steinbeck

Special Collections and Archives holds many rare, unique, limited, and first edition works of American literature, including books by famed author John Steinbeck whose books of fiction and non-fiction have often sparked controversy. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath (1939), which focuses on the plight of farm workers in Depression Era America, and criticizes the economic and social systems which gave rise to what many consider the disintegration of the American family. The Grapes of Wrath won the National Book award for fiction in 1939, received the Pulitzer Prize, and was made into a film in 1940 which received a rash of criticism for being a work of Jewish propaganda. The Grapes of Wrath is among the American Library Association’s top 100 banned or challenged books of the 20th century. 

The Forgotten Village: Life in a Mexican Village is a lesser known non-fiction work by Steinbeck. Based on a semi-documentary film that was directed and produced by Herbert Kline and Alexander Hammid in 1940, the book examines the conflicts that arise when modernization meets traditional culture and values. The film was initially banned by the New York State Board of Regents and considered socialist propaganda by the America First Committee. Eleanor Roosevelt is believed to have intervened on the filmmaker’s behalf, and the film and book were both released in 1941.

The Moon is Down (1942), a novel written in a theatrical style by Steinbeck, tells the story of the military occupation of a small Northern European town by a foreign army at war with both England and Russia. This book is widely believed to parallel the Nazi invasion of Norway during World War II, and some consider the text a thinly veiled form of anti-Nazi propaganda designed to encourage the resistance movement. In the same year, Steinbeck published Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team, an account of his experiences with U.S. Army Air Force bomber crews during World War II. This controversial book has been reviewed both as a skillfully written piece of American journalism and a blatant attempt to promote American democracy and stimulate enlistment in the armed forces.

In 1945, Steinbeck published two novels, The Red Pony and Cannery Row. The Red Pony, an episodic novella, is a coming of age story in which the first two stories appeared in the North American Review in 1933 and the last two in 1934. All four stories would not appear together until 1945 when the short story collection, The Long Valley, and the illustrated edition of The Red Pony were both published. Cannery Row is considered by some to be Steinbeck’s most idiosyncratic work. In it, characters demonstrate the best and the worst of human behavior while Steinbeck explores ideas about individual morality, community responsibility, and the validity of social norms.

In 1952, Steinbeck published one of his most well known novels, East of Eden. The first edition of East of Eden had two print runs; the first was a limited printing of 1,500 copies signed by Steinbeck, and the second run was unsigned. Special Collections and Archives holds copies of both of these runs. Although each of these titles are known to have been written from Steinbeck’s very personal experience and point of view, all have been repeatedly banned for political or moral reasons.

The Grapes of Wrath, first edition. Dust jacket front and back cover and inside flap. PS3537.T3234 G8 1939
The Grapes of Wrath, first edition. Hardback front cover. PS3537.T3234 G8 1939
John Steinbeck, a Letter Written in Reply to a Request for a Statement About his Ancestry, Together with the Letter Originally Submitted by the Friends of Democracy. Cover and title page. PS3537.T3234 Z53 1940
John Steinbeck, a Letter Written in Reply to a Request for a Statement About his Ancestry, Together with the Letter Originally Submitted by the Friends of Democracy. Two letters. PS3537.T3234 Z53 1940
The Forgotten Village, with 136 Photographs From the Film of the Same Name, by Rosa Harvan Kline and Alexander Hackensmid, story by John Steinbeck, first edition, 1941. Dust jacket front cover and title page. F1210 .S7
The Mon is Down, a Novel by John Steinbeck, first edition, 1942. Dust jacket front cover and inside flap. PS3537.T3234 M6
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team, Written for the United States Army Air Forces by John Steinbeck, with 60 photographs by John Swope, first edition, 1942. Dust jacket front cover, back cover, and inside flap. UG633 .S77
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team, Written for the United States Army Air Forces by John Steinbeck, with 60 photographs by John Swope, 1942. Photo illustrations. UG633 .S77
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck, with Illustrations by Wesley Dennis, first illustrated edition. Hardback front cover and title page. PS3537.T3234 R4 1945
East of Eden, autographed by John Steinbeck. Cover and limited edition statement. PS3537.T3234 E3
Cannery Row, first edition, 1945. Dust jacket front cover and inside flap. PS3537.T3234 C3 1945
East of Eden, first edition. Dust jacket front cover and preliminary page. PS3537.T3234 E3 1952
Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research, With a Scientific Appendix Comprising Materials for a Source Book on the Marine Animals of the Panamic Faunal Province by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts. Hardback front cover and frontispiece. QL138 .S82 1971
The Wayward Bus, first edition. Dust jacket front cover and inside flap.  PS3537.T3234 W3 1947
The Winter of our Discontent, first edition, 1961. Dust jacket front and back cover.  PS3537.T3234 W5
A Russian Journal, with pictures by Robert Capa, first edition. Hardback front cover. DK28 .S8 1948
Sweet Thursday, first edition. Dust jacket front cover. PS3537.T3234 S8 1954
Photograph of John Steinbeck. East of Eden, first edition. Dust jacket back cover. PS3537.T3234 E3 1952

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